Do-It-Yourself vs. Hire a Professional

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By Kathryn Katz

Do it yourself home repairsEver since my father died, my mother has leaned on me more to help her whenever something with her condo goes wrong. Recently, I got a phone call that her A/C unit, which is located on the roof, had a leak, and had damaged the drywall in her closet. She had already gotten the A/C fixed, but wanted to know if I wouldn’t mind helping her replace the drywall. I had done a similar project before, so I agreed.

When I surveyed the damage in the closet, it didn’t look so bad. I took some measurements and went to the store to get drywall and other materials. However, with some do-it-yourself projects looks can be deceiving. When I tore down the damaged drywall, I found mold growing inside and rotted wood. This quick five hour, two-person project ended up turning into an eighteen hour project that lasted over two days. When I add the labor and materials spent to correct the issue, it ended up costing more than what a professional had originally quoted my mother.

Whenever you’re considering a do-it-yourself project, it’s important to consider the time and money that’s going to go into it. Here are some quick, simple questions you should ask yourself before committing to a project:

  • Do I have the knowledge and skills to do the project?
  • Do I have the time to get this project done?
  • Would it be less expensive to have a professional do it?
  • Will I enjoy doing the project?

Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have the knowledge and skills to do the project, you can end up making the problem worse. When you have it corrected by a professional, it can end up costing you more than if you had just hired the professional in the first place. If you’re doing any projects that change the integrity of the house, such as walling in your porch and turning it into a den, you may need special permits. Do your research before committing to a project.

Also, you don’t want to start a do-it-yourself project that you don’t have time to finish. Luckily, I was able to clear my schedule that weekend to finish the drywall project for my mom. Otherwise, she would have been without a closet for at least a week. I’m sure I would have heard about the fiasco for the next few holiday dinners if I had left without finishing the project.

Lastly, a do-it-yourself project is only worth it, if you’re going to save money. Besides the cost of materials, you also want to calculate your time. MSN Money has a great calculator that help you figure out how much is your time worth; just do the math and make sure your project is a frugal one.

About the Author

The above is a guest post from Kathryn Katz, a Certified Personal Finance Counselor who works for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Their non-profit agency helps families through financial crisis using credit counseling, debt consolidation and financial education.

{ 1 comment }

1 Jason May 14, 2010

“a do-it-yourself project is only worth it, if you’re going to save money”

That is an awfully short sighted statement, even with respect to frugality. While a single project may not save you money, the experienced gained for the next time certainly may. Evidence suggests that we are entering a time where repairing things to make them last longer is going to be par for the course, so a little up front investment can pay big dividends in the long term. The intangibles can also make it worthwhile; confidence, stress relief, physical activity, to name a few.

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